Are you there Hollywood? It's me, Diablo

My adventures (so far) in the screenwriting trade

"Close enough," Jonny says.

 

As it turns out, Juno's producer has to fly to a set in Vancouver due to a minor emergency on one of his movies, which throws a wrench in our evening plans. I'm bummed, but this also gives me a chance to spend a few hours without my game face. Manager rounds up a few of his friends, and we wind up having dinner and cocktails by the hotel pool. ("Hey, I think we we stole that MTV guy's table," one of my dinner companions snickers. Sure enough, VJ Dave Holmes is pouting a few feet away, denied of prime poolside seating.) Everyone's in the movie business in some way; it's like being trapped in an episode of Entourage, even though Kevin Dillon checked out this morning, as far as I know.

"Do any of you have any friends who aren't in the industry?" I ask jokingly.

"No," the group replies in unison.

I excuse myself early, exhausted. Jonny is flying out to meet me tomorrow, and I hope I've got a modicum of energy left with which to greet him. We've got plans to spend the weekend doing what we do best: boozing at the Rainbow alongside graying hair-metal frontmen. I know there are other things I could be doing tonight, but all I want to do is sleep.

The next morning, I drive to Nate 'n' Al's in Beverly Hills for breakfast. This deli is so old-school it makes Canter's look like Chi. Apparently, Larry King eats breakfast here every day, and sure enough, he's two booths away from me, noshing with his morning buddies. He looks fragile and adorable, like a Muppet likeness of himself. I'm here to meet with the head of my agency's literary department, an incredibly animated and hyperactive fellow. Like Larry King, he eats here every morning. He tells me an amazing story about saving a guy's life in the bathroom.

"I walked in and he was choking over the toilet," he says gesturing wildly. "Without thinking, I gave him the Heimlich. Out popped the cantaloupe, and there you go! So what do you want for breakfast? Do you like eggs? How about an omelet? Everything is delicious."

He pushes a new copy of Variety across the table at me. "By the way, I saw you in the trades. Congratulations."

I look down at Variety and see that there's an article headlined "Mandate Finds Its Juno." I had known there was a trade announcement about the movie planned, but I didn't know Manager had cleverly arranged for the article's run date to coincide with my trip to L.A. For the rest of the day, people I meet will say "Diablo Cody? I saw you in the trades today!" The trades are a mercurial bible, a daily devotional for everyone in the know.

After breakfast we go to the agency, which is situated on an extremely swank block (I have been informed by locals that there are, in fact, slums in Beverly Hills. Hey, Andrea Zuckerman has to live somewhere.) I join a group of agents in a conference room, where my New York agent is being patched in via videophone. I wave at the screen helplessly. My New York agent is cute; I've never actually seen her before. The agents pass around packets describing "hot" source material I could potentially be hired to adapt. I'm surprised to see more than a few writers from the blogosphere on there; seems we're all being taken seriously these days. I remember when one of the novelists on that roster was an HTML newbie who gratefully traded links with me in 2001. We now both have book deals and screenwriting deals, and our blogs are probably less interesting as a result. Blow your load elsewhere and you're not left with much juice.

The material all looks promising to me, but one aspect of the agency meeting is vaguely disturbing. Everyone laughs at everything I say. I'm not that funny. It's like watching that awful show about Britney Spears and seeing how assorted sycophants in her posse giggle over her every remark as if Britney's a modern-day Oscar Wilde. I'm certainly not complaining; hell, it's awesome being treated this way. But I know I'm not nearly as clever as feedback would indicate.

The meeting is a long one, and the video monitor gives me the willies for the duration, but it finally ends around 11:00. After bidding my biggest fans goodbye, I drive back out to Paramount, where I have a brief meeting with the production company responsible for my favorite movie of all time. I wonder if they can get me in a room with Wes Anderson, then I realize Wes Anderson would probably peg me as a vulgar simpleton. Wes Anderson would never work at a peep show. Wes Anderson probably doesn't shop at Marshall's. Wes Anderson wouldn't piss himself at the Uptown Transit Station in a drunken stupor. Wes Anderson is a genius.

After that meeting, I drive back to the Standard at an unsafe speed. I know Jonny has already arrived, and I'm tired of navigating this clownhouse alone. In the lobby, I phone our room and tell him I'm waiting downstairs. I pose photogenically in one of those Plexiglass swings so I look like I belong here, like 36 hours in West Hollywood can lend me the air of cool detachment I've always longed for. Jonny appears at the lobby entrance with a dazed expression on his face, and I immediately blow my cover by leaping out of the swing and throwing my arms around him.

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